Like the far tolling of a bell, Muia's stories are reminiscent of tale, legend, and fable. Stark and moving, unsparing and compassionate, her work is grounded in history but suspended in no particular time . . . these are spellbinding myths to get lost in.
—Robert Clark, Author, In The Deep Midwinter
A. Muia has spent more than a decade poring through dusty books and traveling to remote sites in the deserts of Baja California—by Jeep, mule, and boots—to research the crumbling ruins of Jesuit, Franciscan, and Dominican missions. The result is a mythic novel in linked stories, a work of literary fiction set in 19th century Lower California.
It’s an era of pearl-divers on the Vermilion Sea, ranchers and grave-diggers and garbage-collecting angels, ex-soldiers and ex-nuns, walking statues and gold miners, ancient cave painters and fierce lady revolutionaries, miracle mules and mezcal makers and a diffident British herpetologist who dissects snakes on the altar of an abandoned chapel. Muia weaves a story of human beings as isolated as their topography, small lives living their own immense tragedies in the shadow of ruined missions on an inhospitable peninsula abandoned even by its priests.
Moving through the narrative are two central figures—a broken priest fleeing the unwitting atrocity of his own hands, and a mute woman seeking to return home at any cost—whose stories intersect in a surprising and satisfying conclusion.
Click here for an interview with Water~Stone Review about the Baja California novel.
Zymbol Magazine Issue 06, 2015. Nominated for the Orison Anthology.
The adobe was shedding its dust, the talus of men. The windows were wood-shuttered and she wondered what eyes might gaze from the dark seams. She said to Pablo, The very trees in this place are unaccustomed to callers . . .
The Coming Death of Father-of-the-Pillow
The Stockholm Review of Literature Issue/Utgåva 21, 2017.
In the spring of 1845, the townspeople of San Ignacio started to suspect that the statue of El Santo Niño de Atocha, seated casually in his niche on the epistle side of the mission church, was climbing down at night and walking around . . .
The Baltimore Review, Fall 2017. Read the full story here.
He could see figures ahead in the salt pools, bending, gathering crystals with their hands. Their backs made dark islands in a strange white sea . . .
West Branch #87, Spring/Summer 2018.
She shaded her eyes and at once she knew the man. She stood forgetting the goats as they trotted up the trail by themselves. She examined the rider and there was not one thing about him she liked. Yet she turned and went down toward the house . . .
Faultline 2018. University of California Irvine. Annual.
An angel named Ed Ghee showed up on Malarrimo Beach, a good place to conduct research. He was intrigued by the confluence of the Kuroshio Current and the California Current. The gyres were like great rivers, the longest rivers in the world. But no one thought of that. The gyres got no credit . . .
The Good Confession
Raleigh Review, Fall 2018. Anthologized in the Orison Anthology.
Bones clicked and settled as he pulled up to the door. In days of old, a soldier had taken a skull from the charnel house and mortared it above the lintel. Without a jaw but somehow grinning at those who passed underneath . . .
La Mula Milagrosa
The Beloit Fiction Journal 33, Spring 2020. Finalist for the Hamlin Garland Award for the Short Story. Nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
Alone upon the Arroyo Pabellón, he fashioned a droughted ranch: an adobe house and fences of cacti and smaller adobes and round corrales of stone, built without the benefit of rain. By many drops of sweat he created it, from the very water within him . . .
Chicago Review, January 2022. Read the full story here.
The little edifice of stone, topped with dried palms and now empty of all religious artifact, was practically hidden behind barrels, jars, cork-lined boxes, bags of mosquito netting, copper kettles and leather panniers, powder tanks filled with specimens waiting for mules to transport them to the coast for shipment to the British Museum.
Cemetery at San José de Magdalena, Baja California Sur. Photo by the author.
Water~Stone Review Vol. 25, Fall 2022. Click here for an interview about the story.
He reached for her hair, twisting the heavy strands in his fingers and gesturing with the gun to the window. His mouth moved with worried talk. She took his hand and tried to free it but he pulled her close, his mouth moving all the while. He held the revolver to her cheek, as though he would take her into death with him.